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PBS News Hour

News/Business. Gwen Ifill, Judy Woodruff, Jeffrey Brown. (2012) New. (CC) (Stereo)

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Burma 14, U.s. 14, Warner 12, Us 11, Suarez 10, Israel 10, Syria 9, Turkey 9, Myanmar 8, Brown 6, Obama 6, Maine 5, United States 5, Kaskel 4, New York 4, Cairo 4, Aleppo 4, Sandy 3, Egypt 3, Nowinski 3,
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  PBS    PBS News Hour    News/Business. Gwen Ifill, Judy Woodruff,  
   Jeffrey Brown.  (2012) New. (CC) (Stereo)  

    November 20, 2012
    12:00 - 1:00am PST  

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captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> woodruff: israel aimed a new wave of deadly airstrikes at gaza today, and hamas fighters sent a volley of rockets into southern israel, six days after the escalation began. good evening. i'm judy woodruff. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. on the newshour tonight, we have reports from gaza city and tel aviv, and talk with journalist nancy youssef in cairo, where diplomatic efforts to broker peace are under way. >> woodruff: then, we turn to the other hot conflict in the middle east, in syria. margaret warner takes us inside the opposition forces and examines turkey's efforts to help the rebels.
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>> gist around this corner down this cobblestone street is a back alley where you can fiefned a whole underground economy. an underground economy that helps keep the syrian resistance going. >> brown: president obama makes an historic trip to myanmar. ray suarez looks at the asian country's steps away from a closed military dictatorship. >> woodruff: paul solman reports from the rockaways on new york's long island about insurance woes for victims of hurricane sandy. >> everything you're looking at here is destroyed. this used to be a really beautiful restaurant. >> where is the financing coming from if you don't have flood insurance? >> i don't know. i really don't. >> brown: and we close with the first of several conversations we'll have with newly elected senators. tonight: maine independent angus king. >> woodruff: that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. major funding for the pbs
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>> woodruff: egypt's leaders tried today to mediate a truce between israel and hamas, but there was no outward sign of progress. instead, the two sides traded hundreds more air strikes and rocket attacks. in gaza, palestinians reported more than 100 people killed so far, more than half of them civilians. we have two reports from independent television news, beginning with john ray in gaza. (gunfire). >> reporter: two sides talking peace but conducting a war. fairly a lull in hostilities before an israeli air strike killed another militant leader inside a building used by local and world media. this was already the day of the dead when bodies followed bodies from morgue to cemetery shrouded
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in the green flag of hamas and carried along on a seething river of fury. no surrender, this man shouts. it's either us or israel in this land. these are the dead from one family: four children who died with their father and mother, their aunts and their sisters. the house where they lived and perished in an instant has been wiped from the earth, whether this was the result of a misguided missile isn't clear. israel says it was targeting aha mass official. but both sides know that this grim spectacle adds to the pressure on israel to hold its fire. israel says the high price it extracts from its enemies, it is only guarantee of safety. but here in gaza often that means that the innocent bear the cost. that not only fuels the hatred
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but the desire for revenge. this person survived the explosion that killed so many of his family. he has run out of hope. >> everything is lost. everything. it's getting worse and worse and worse. >> reporter: day six of this war began with the destruction of the gaza sports stadium. used israel claims as a training camp for terrorists. this conflict has not yet run its course nor claimed its last life. >> brown: on the israeli side, there were no new casualties despite more than 100 rockets fired from gaza. military officials credited a new defense system. john irvine has that side of the story. >> reporter: a missile hunting missile whooshes over our heads and finds what it's looking for.
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the israelis have just taken out a palestinian rocket fired from gaza. the intersector system has given israel a protective force field. when it's summoned into action, the incoming ordnance will be sought and destroyed. that missile has a 90% chance of (missile noise). this remarkable system has saved hundreds of lives and is the main reason this conflict has not escalated... so far anyway. this is a palestinian missile being shot down over tell ai.v.f. last night. but one of these got through and exploded in the city. the israeli army would have invaded gaza by now and the death toll would be much greater.
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>> i mean we wouldn't have been standing here and you wouldn't have seen tel aviv as lifey as it is today. this would have been a completely different conflict. this changes the game. >> reporter: however, some israelis living closer to gaza have had enough of the conflict and are heading out of range of it. as they go north, more armor is moving south. bolstering the already sizable force poised to go into gaza if ordered. more peacemaker than weapon. that's what's made this just an air war for the time being at least. >> woodruff: we turn to cairo
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now, where efforts are underway to stop the fighting between israel and hamas. a short while ago, i spoke with nancy youssef, mcclatchy newspapers' egypt correspondent. nancy yousef, welcome. tell us about those meetings going on in cairo. who is taking part? what's the latest? >> well, we heard a little bit about them today from the head of hamas. we've heard repeated suggestions that they're close to an agreement. we've heard this since saturday. it's being mediated by the egyptians by mohammed morsi and members of his cabinet. it's the first time he's had to negotiate something on this scale since winning the presidency in june. there's an israeli delegation here as well. the negotiations have been happening for a few days now. today we're hearing from people privately that there doesn't seem to be a particular sticking point but that both sides are... that's really being lost is the time that's having to happen between shuttling between two sides that won't face each other in the same room.
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remember though it's in everybody's interest to keep promising that this cease-fire agreement will come soon because of potential instability. if there isn't a promise of some sort of settlement to this, i think there's universal agreement that the worst case scenario is escalation. >> woodruff: nancy, what are the israelis asking for? >> i think very simply they're asking for hamas to stop launching rockets towards them. remember, this time it was significant in that a rocket reached the city of tel aviv which is a first. and so i think very simply what they're asking for is the palestinians, we heard from one of them today that they want to see an end to the five-year blockade that has been imposed by the israelis, an end to the targeted assassinations of their military commanders and of
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course an independent, sovereign state. so it doesn't seem that either side can promise one of those agreements or one of those promises so what comes out in the middle would be... will be kind of interesting. but i think in the immediate both sides want to cease to the hostilities that really threaten to escalate and destabilize not only israel and gaza but the region. >> woodruff: is there literally no common ground there? >> i don't think so. i think that there can be an agreement that such activities cease for a certain period of time. but we're asking two sides who haven't been able to agree to this for years and years to come to a settlement. both sides have a vested interest. remember that hamas, for example, sees that this is a time for them to negotiate in that they really feel emboldened
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by the arab spring and the ability of leaders or the willingness arab leaders to come forward and say, "we're going to stand behind the palestinian people." even in the face of the reality that they don't have the arms to go against the very powerful israeli military. >> woodruff: speaking of arab leaders, you mentioned president morsi of egypt is playing a mediator role. he's been outspoken in his comments before now, praising hamas. and yet the israelis still seem to look to him. what is his role in all of this? >> well, there's no other alternative. so everyone we've spoken to says despite the rhetoric, arguably was necessary by morsi in the face of the election in the face of the constituency which elected him which was the muslim brotherhood which has always stood behind hamas, he had to say those things.
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practically speaking egypt more than any other nation can't afford for this to escalate. what we're hearing is while the faces have changed in terms of the leadership here in egypt, the interests have not. president morsi understands this and has been very pragmatic behind the scenes and is looking out primarily for egypt's interest. so there's a disconnect really between the rhetoric and what's happening behind the scenes. that's what we're being told. >> woodruff: nancy, we know the israelis have talked about making preparations for a ground war if necessary. is there a timetable folks are discussing there? >> we keep hearing that this could be imminent in the next few days. yet what was interesting is the major newspaper put out a poll today that found that most israelis supported the air strikes but didn't support a ground war. so even though they were hearing aggressive talk about that just a couple of days ago it seemed to have lessened in the last 24
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hours suggesting that perhaps both sides are close to some sort of cease-fire agreement but there doesn't seem to be the appetite that there was just a few days ago for such a ground offensive. that said, the expectation is that it would start within days, that the israelis have mobilized their reservists and are preparing for such a ground war. and the expectation here is that it would be sometime around the end of the week. >> woodruff: just finally quickly, evidence of a u.s. role there? >> i spoke to a u.s. official today about that. it's interesting. the u role from what we hear is essential to offer words of encouragement to both sides. they keep stressing that egypt is really leading this and that they don't need this sort of push that one would expect. that said, there's a frustration in congress by the comments that hamid morsi, the president, made here in support of hamas.
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lindsey graham came out on sunday and said that congress was watching it very closely. the u.s. says that egypt is taking the initiative on its own, that the u.s. role is ancillary, that the u.s. is monitoring it. president obama has spoken to morsi. as recently as today. hillary clinton has spoken to her counterpart and the prime minister here that the u.s. does have a role. but that egypt is willingly leading the peace negotiations. >> woodruff: nancy yousef, on the story in cairo. nancy yousef with mcclatchy, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> woodruff: oline we have a first person account from journalist stephanie freid, who writes about how the escalating violence is affecting families in the region, including her own. still to come on the newshour, inside rebel-held territory in syria; moving toward democracy in myanmar; the high cost of not
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having flood insurance; and maine's new senator, angus king. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: wall street started thanksgiving week on a buying binge. stocks surged from the start amid hopes that president obama and congress will reach a deficit deal. the dow jones industrial average gained 207 points to close just under 12,796. the nasdaq rose nearly 63 points to close at 2916. also today, sales of existing homes gave the latest sign of a housing recovery. they were up 2% in october despite delays caused by hurricane sandy in the northeast. in afghanistan, president hamid karzai accused the u.s. today of violating a pact governing the transfer of detainees. he said more than 70 afghans are still in american custody despite a court order to release them. the two sides signed an accord last march, but the u.s. has slowed its handover of prisons to ensure afghan forces are ready to take control. new clashes in congo today threatened a larger war in the central african nation. rebels from the m-23 group
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battled government troops near the eastern city of goma, in a region rich in minerals. the rebels had promised to stop fighting and to join peace talks. but congo's government refused to participate. it accused neighboring rwanda of supporting the insurgents. in washington, state department spokeswoman victoria nuland warned the fighting is creating thousands of new refugees. ere are now some 60,000 people displaced just in the past three days, 500,000 since january, and threatens threats to hundreds of thousands more. we're also particularly appalled by the incredible spike in violence and m-23's decision to renew its military campaign. >> sreenivasan: congo and rwanda have already fought two wars in recent years. the government of rwanda has denied supporting m-23. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to jeff. >> brown: and we turn to another deadly conflict in the middle east, the syrian civil war. according to one activist group, the battle between government forces and rebels has claimed
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the lives of more than 37,000 people. margaret warner is on a reporting trip to the region filing stories for our web site and our broadcast. tonight, she gets an inside look at the opposition in syria, and turkey's role supporting it. >> warner: it was a reunion six years in the making. this man embraced his younger brothers last week on a street corner in the turkish town, just three miles from the syrian border. he left syria in 2006 after his civil society activities through a warning from assad's government. but from his comfortable life in dallas he recently engineered his younger brother's escape. en route to their meeting he spoke of his mixed feelings of having to meet them in turkey. >> very excited to see them but at the same time i cannot take
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the back images that we're meeting in a foreign country, not meeting at home. >> warner: where was this? this man had been serving compulsory military duty in intelligence until his assignment changed. >> we had to flee because the regime would have forced us to fight against the people. the orders we got were to crush demonstrations by any means possible even if we had to shoot them. >> warner: this man who was teaching french felt he had to flee too. >> because my brother had escaped they might arrest and torture me to get information about him. >> warner: through the help of the u.s.--and canada-based syrian support group he got his brothers out of turkey through a network of sympathizers. those the rebellion is often described as a conflict between assad ruling sect and syria's majority sunnies, the escape of
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these brothers tells a different story. >> it's worth mentioning that the whole operation was done by sunni. there are like sunni people who risk their lives and rescue to make sure there are a defector soldier in the security forces. >> warner: but millions are still trapped the rebellion rages on. we traveled to the rebel-liberated zone in northwest syria to see what 20 months of conflict had brought. syrian ground forces have left, but the devastation remains. residents get by on a make-shift economy, relying on watered downed salt and locally grown vegetables for sale on a round-about. many remain defiant. friday demonstrators outside aleppo, fight of a four-month battle for control, mocked assad and called on the arab world to help them. but the regime's bomber jets
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thunder daily overhead. >> when the airplane comes, children start crying and shouting. everybody goes to his mother or father. it's a very, very, very bad feeling for us. >> warner: this english teacher is part of a local administration council, a civilian group working to restore basic town services after government forces and officials withdrew. >> we had to take care of everything as educated people, as people who started this revolution against this brutal regime. we had to take care of electricity. we had to take care of telephones, of streets, of spreading bread. >> warner: the goal, he says, is to keep life bearable enough that people will stay. >> without electricity, everybody would leave home. we have to stay here to resist
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this brutal regime. >> warner: for others, staying home isn't an option. this camp for syria's internally displaced was built two months ago by a young aleppo man. he agree... we agreed to shield his face. the libyan benefactor bought the tents and tarps but he's received little assistance since then aside from daily half rations of food from a turkish n.g.o. now what's going to happen here if you don't get more help? >> i don't know. we are working every day. we don't know what happens tomorrow. i don't know what to do. but that's my work. >> warner: why are you happy? to help these people because nobody takes care of them. >> warner: but life is hard in the camp especially with children. 40-year-old and her 11-year-old were barred official entry to turkey. do you have food?
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>> today they gave us only six tiny meals of old bread. >> warner: are there bathrooms? for all the women in the camp there are only six toil hes. >> warner: have you needed any kind of medical care for your children? >> if a child gets sick they prescribe medicine for us but it's not available. >> warner: one thing the camp does have is a makeshift mosque. despite the apparent calm, anger bubbles beneath the surface. >> we have no shelter, no food. there is no heat. children are cold and getting sick. this is what bashar and his people did. >> warner: what help they do get comes through syria's neighbors. turkey is a life line for civilians and for the fighters of the rebel free syrian army. money, guns and medical supplies all make it through official and unofficial crossings from turkish border towns like this one. along this busy shopping street, locals here can buy everything from clothing to fast food to
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cell phones. but just around this corner down this cobblestone street is a back alley where you can find a whole underground economy, an underground economy that helps keep the syrian resistance going. a syrian activist calling himself... collects donated medical supplies from turkish pharmacies, everything from bandages to antibiotics. so do you feel turkey is allowing this, enabling this? >> turkey helps my group. when we need it, the turkish government... >> warner: also being sheltered in turkey, syrian attorney. his free syrian lawyers association is documenting cases of regime atrocities for trial one day. he concedes rebel forces have been accuse of abuses too and says they will be subject to
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prosecution. >> in the future in syria, all laws will be applied. they vote for freedom, democracy, freedom and application of the law to everyone. >> warner: even this idealistic attorney dismisses talk from the west of a negotiated end to the conflict. do you think there's a peaceful solution to the conflict in syria? >> i don't think so. dictators don't have a midpoint. it's either they stay or no one else does. >> warner: what is it going to take to solve this conflict? >> i think the only solution is an organized syrian opposition. >> warner: a prominent commander in that armed opposition is this colonel who heads the aleppo region military council. we were taken to meet him at a secret command center where he decamped after a targeted air strike against him two weeks ago. he outlined for us the scope of the territory his unit holds on the ground. hundreds of square miles
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bordering turkey. >> we are advancing each new day and winning new battles. we have almost full control of the ground though they are experienced in the air. >> warner: he moved his wife to turkey for safety and is free to travel there when needed. >> turkey is a friend and neighbor. we won't forget what turkey has done. the syrian people won't forget any country that provided them with support and won't forget any country that helped the regime. >> warner: but he says he needs more from turkey and the west: a no fly zone an antiaircraft weapons for his men to take down helicopters and fighter jets. >> we need the international community to top supporting. we are determined to overthrow this regime by any means even if the whole world is standing by his side and supporting it. >> warner: do you think the whole word is supporting this regime. >> headed by the usa.
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they are watching syrian blood being poured out in the streets. if a cat or a dog were killed any place in the world, the world would react to the deaths more than these 100,000 syrians. >> warner: the u.s. government says they're reluctant to provide antiaircraft weaponry because of the fear that it will fall into the wrong hands. >> this is an excuse used by the west. these weapons will be in safe hands. in the hands of specialized officers. there are only a few extremists or jihaddists but the west is directly empowering them by not supporting the organized groups. >> warner: this civilian leader worked hands in glove with the unit which protects his town. >> we didn't get any single, any penny from any people. >> warner: what about from western governments or n.g.o.s? >> we haven't received anything at all. we are tired now. we are tired now of war. we are tired of shelling every day. >> warner: he's not sure how long this town can hold out
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without western help. >> i think not very long. winter is coming. we have thousands of displaced people who came from aleppo. we don't anything. so i think that our ability to withstand that is very, very very small. >> warner: yet so far it doesn't paid to bet against the resilience of the syrian people. an act i.v.f.s like these two say they'll continue aiding the resistance from outside. >> i want to reach out to the elements that they don't have blood on their hands. we want to make sure that they are on the right side of history. there are some good people in the regime that they want to cooperate. they want to work with us. we're going to reach out to these people. >> warner: together they hope all will be welcome in the new syria they want to build. >> woodruff: in her next
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>> woodruff: in her next report, margaret looks at the more than one hundred thousand syrian refugees who have fled to turkey. >> brown: next, to the southeast asian country of myanmar, where president obama's visit today made some history. ray suarez has our story. >> suarez: by the tens of thousands cheering people packed the streets of myanmar's capital city today. the crowds waved american flags as they angled for a glimpse of the first sitting u.s. president to visit the southeast asian nation. >> i hope he can bring change in every aspect. >> i really hope that obama will help build the transition to democracy. we have many ethnic groups in myanmar. they are also hoping that obama will help them progress. >> suarez: also known as burma, the country was under military rule for half a century and was largely closed off from the rest of the world. yet in the past two years it's
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begun a rapid about-face. today president obama complemented... complimented the myanmar president, former general and his reform. >> the steps that he's already taken for democratization -- elections, the release of prisoners of conscience, a commitment to work with us on human rights dialogue -- all can unleash the incredible potential of this beautiful country. >> suarez: from there the president followed by admirers traveled to the home of long time opposition leader who spent most of the last 20 years under house arrest and is now an elected member of her country's house of representatives. >> the united states has been staunch in its support of the democracy movement in burma and we are confident that this support will continue through the difficult years that lie ahead. i say difficult because the most
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difficult time in any transition is when we think that success is in sight. >> suarez: mr. obama joined in that caution telling an audience at the university that those in power must accept constraint. he saluted myanmar's long struggle for freedom. >> above all, i came here because of america's belief in human dignity. over the last several decades our two countries became strangers. but today i can tell you that we always remain hopeful about the people of this country. about you. you gave us hope and we bore witness to your courage. >> suarez: wherever they could, people watched the speech on television as the president pressed for more reform. he also urged an end to fighting between ethnic groups and buddhists and muslims in the north and west of the country. >> within these borders we've seen some of the world's longest-running insurgencies
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which have cost countless lives and torn families and communities apart and stood in the way of development. no process of reform will succeed without national reconciliation. ( applause ) >> suarez: during the president's six-hour stay, the government of myanmar announced new steps to try to calm the ethnic conflict. and we get two views of the presidential visit. priscilla clapp is a retired foreign service officer who headed the u.s. embassy in burma between 1999 and 2002. she's now an analyst and consultant to think tanks and foundations. and tom malinowski, washington director of human rights watch and a former state department and national security council staffer in the clinton administration. there have been years of chill and years of demands for change. now an american president in the capital. were there some preconditions that the government there had to meet before that kind of
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endorsement? >> they had to start this reform process but there weren't any preconditions for the trip itself which made the trip kind of risky. you can only send the president of the united states to burma for the first time in history once. so the question was, what was president obama going to get for this apart from the imagery and the speech and there's the glorious aspects of the trip that we saw. we saw that in the video. but in the last couple of days the white house worked really really hard sort of at the last minute to try to get some real concrete deliverables from the government. they actually got some. i think they got enough to be able to say that this trip was justified by its results. they did get about 15 more prisoners released. more important they got a process in place to resolve the remaining few hundred cases of people who are still behind bars in burma for their opposition to the military government and some pretty decent commitments that now have to be fulfilled on
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resolving the ethnic conflict and especially dealing with the really painful problem of the relationship between the buddhist majority in burma and particularly the muslims living in the west, the muslims who have been subjected to really terrible pogroms in the last few weeks >> suarez: priscilla clapp you've been looking at some of the undertakings of the government. in your judgment are they significant maybe you can tell us what some of them are >> i agree with what tom just said particularly about the political prisoners because they have agreed to start a process before the end of december that will invite foreign experts in to go over the remaining cases. this is going to be not only an exercise in reviewing the status of these prisoners but also an exercise in reviewing the burmese judicial system. how were they arrested, why?
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how were they convicted? it's a very important step forward. they also agreed to sign the additional protocols for the i.a.e.a., the atomic energy agency, to come in and inspect. it will allow them to come in inspect the suspect sites that people claim they were using to start a nuclear weapons program. so this is really a very good step forward. that's something it has been asking for, for a couple years >> suarez: now, can the outside world get smoked by some of this? is it just enough to get this much legitimacy and then you slow-walking some of these reforms? is that a risk, a problem? >> yes. we need to remember that despite the extraordinary changes that burma has gone through from absolute dictatorship to this moment when people have a degree of freedom that the big, tough decisions still lie ahead. the army still controls much of
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public life inside burma. the constitution still empowers the army not civilians. there are still these ethnic conflicts. one thing aung san suu kyi said today was very important was that we should not lured by the mirage of success in burma. i think the president's speech if you look at it carefully demonstrates he wasn't lured by it. he talked about all these problems. in fact he raised very difficult issues having to do with particularly the racial and ethnic tensions in burma that even aung san suu kyi doesn't talk about because they're so politically sensitive in the country. very little of this gets resolved -- this is the key point -- until 2015 when burma will hold its first fully free and fair elections, we hope, for all the seats in parliament are contested. when the democratic opposition will have its first chance if the army allows it to actually run the country. >> suarez: this was a situation that for a long time was just static.
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unchanging. how do you explain this rapid move to get out of much of the world's dog house? >> well, they had been planning the transition in government for 20 years. many people just didn't see it coming. i think the fact that they made these dramatic changes in the first year have taken everybody by surprise. they thought it would be a slower change once they had moved into sort of quasielective government. but i think that what happened is that these former generals who now run the country knew all along that they were very far behind and that they were not serving their people well and they needed to change. it's really remarkable that they would have moved basically to adopt the opposition agenda. and everything they're doing is what we've been asking for. >> suarez: burma's fellow members, if you were to go to some of their capitol, they're
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much wealthier places. people are better fed, beth clothed. they've moved ahead. >> burma is still in the 20th century. they have not entered the 21st century yet but they would like to >> suarez: so what's the next step for keeping the process on track, for keeping good faith with these new friends? >> actually, let me take issue a little bit. i'm not sure if for 20 years the military in burma was planning to give up power or that they were motivated primarily by concern about their people. if they had been a lot of decisions would have been made differently for the last 20 years. i do think they wanted at the end of this to be part of the world. they wanted to be respected. respected by the international community, especially by the united states, and they wanted to be respected by their own people. they realized that because of our policies, because we were blocking their way into the global economy that the only way that it could get that was by dealing with aung san suu kyi
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because that's what we told them they had to do. bring the opposition in. so now that they've started, we have to reward that. we have to, as the administration has been doing, begin the process of lifting all of the sanctions that had been in place for all these years. but we still have to stick to a principled approach and insist that the full flowering of the relationship of the united states is going to depend on get to go the finish line, having those free and fair elections in 2015. we shouldn't be, as aung san suu kyi said, lured by the sort of illusion that it's already done, that it's mission accomplished, and move to a more normal relationship where what the u.s. a.m. bass score there is is most worried about is helping u.s. companies in dealing with ties between our military. we're sort of, you know, a a third or a quarter of the way through this historic process. we have to keep to the principled path we've been on >> suarez: a third or a quarter. quickly before we go, is the united states standing sufficiently short of
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normalizing relationships, that there's still some work to be done and the burmese know they have to go there >> yes, i believe they are. furthermore we can always take back the sanctions. i mean, using the sanctions doesn't mean they're gone forever. if things start sliding backwards it's very easy to put them back in place. it's not an either/or proposition >> suarez: thank you both. online check out our story and photo galleries of images on the president's trip. >> woodruff: now we turn to our ongoing coverage of the recovery after superstorm sandy. new york city officials say they will demolish about 200 homes in the outer boroughs, including some heavily damaged ones in the rockaways. some 200 other homes in the city were so badly damaged by the storm that they likely will be demolished as well.
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as residents consider their next steps, they face questions over whether to rebuild and the role of insurance coverage. our economics correspondent, paul solman, visited the area as part of his reporting on making sense of financial news. >> solman: on new york's rockaway peninsula, workers clearing out robert kaskel's ground floor condo, the former manhattanite's little piece of paradise-- until sandy hit. >> the ocean came right into all the properties here. it blew open my front door right off the frame. the water rushed down into my basement, completely filling the entire basement, and then continued to rise. and i'm sure that there was even wave action inside because where the water line is, i see traces of water even higher than that. >> solman: flood insurance should cover most of an expected $300,000 in repairs. >> we're going to save the countertops, but everything
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below it has to go. >> solman: rockaway is a less- than-mile-wide strip of land that's been hammered before. hog island, a 19th-century version of the hamptons just south of here, was completely submerged and washed away by a category two hurricane in 1893. but kaskel can't start rebuilding his home just yet. >> i have to get my restaurant up and running first, because that's my livelihood, and without any income coming in, i can't even think about how this can even be worked on. my whole family is out of a job, because it's a mom-and-pop business. my wife works with me, my brother-in-law, my sister-in- law. i even hire my kids in the summertime. >> solman: a few blocks away across the peninsula, kaskel's restaurant, thai rock, sits over jamaica bay. >> everything you're looking at here is destroyed. this used to be a really beautiful restaurant. >> solman: after a successful career in high tech on wall street, kaskel fled the city, disillusioned, for a life so near, but yet so far.
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>> this was the back bar, and right in front of us now-- where we cant stand because there's no floor left-- this was the bar that people would sit at. >> solman: but with the water just five feet below the floor in normal conditions, why no flood insurance? >> it was an expense issue. flood insurance was going to add almost $1,000 a month onto my already pressured overhead. >> solman: and where is the financing coming from if you don't have flood insurance? >> i don't know. i really don't know. i've put in an application with the s.b.a. >> solman: but the small business administration has made no promises to kaskel, or to the many other businesses that braved the storm without flood insurance. in fact, fully 87% of americans here don't carry flood insurance, and a startling number of them are near the water. >> it really has been total devastation.
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>> solman: like musician 82- year-old jack nowinski, whose home housed his rare instrument collection. >> we didn't expect it was really going to happen, and all of a sudden, we see some water in the street. by the time 20 minutes rolled around, it not only filled up the basement, but it went approximately 14 inches above this floor, really very quickly. so we went upstairs to the first... the first thought was to try to save things, but you couldn't save anything. and my attitude was. life is more important than things; therefore let's save ourselves. so we went upstairs. >> solman: a lifelong new york music performance teacher, trombonist, and instrument dealer, nowinski's retirement savings were in his inventory. >> i decided i should invest only in things that i know something about. i started investing in some really great instruments. >> solman: so this is your children's patrimony? >> correct, correct.
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>> solman: and what are the total losses, do you figure so far? >> somewhere between $750,000 and a million. >> solman: none of it insured-- too costly to do the requisite cataloguing of every item. but no flood insurance either, despite the hurricane history of the area. >> every year, they cry wolf. there was really very, very minor damage as a result of irene, and only in a few spots. nobody expected this; nobody could believe it. >> solman: but a category three hurricane hit in nowinski's own lifetime, the so-called 1938 long island express. so how come you didn't think it could ever happen again? >> well, i was seven years old in 1938, and i remember that storm, because we were living on coney island. and i remember the rain driving down the street, but it didn't
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do anything to the basement. it didn't do anything to the electricity. so there was really no major effect that would have remained with me. >> solman: insurance companies, however, are in the businesses of remembering storms, which is why so many of them stopped offering flood insurance, leaving the job to federal and state governments. they, in turn, have been criticized for underpricing insurance. >> the rates charged by the national flood insurance program today, in many areas, don't come close to actually reflecting the true risk. >> solman: unrealistically low insurance rates, therefore, are blamed for giving the signal that the risk, too, is low and thus a false sense of security in places like the rockaways. but that's not the issue for residents like robert kaskel, for whom even low rates are too high.
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is this maybe, though, too dangerous, too risky a place to be doing this? >> not a chance. come on, that is what drives human beings. we seek out things that make our lives more valuable, more meaningful. we've got that here. there's no place that you can go that i've ever been, especially near new york, a metro area, with such an amazing, beautiful view. and the people that come here, every single person, bar none, are blown away. even the people who come here all the time are blown away by how magnificent, how beautiful, how majestic we are here. >> solman: for some people, then, life in the storm's way is worth the risk, insurance costs or no. and, it turns out, there are hidden benefits as well, even for the still-stunned jack nowinski. >> this storm has done something which is a very positive thing for me.
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it has engendered in me a positive feeling towards humanity again, because i have come across many, many very generous and caring people, >> solman: nowinski's life savings may be gone, but to some folks in the rockaways, at least, there seems to be more to life than money. >> woodruff: and online, we hear from more new yorkers who lost their homes in superstorm sandy. they now have to decide whether to rebuild or move. that's on the rundown. >> brown: finally tonight, the first of several conversations with newly elected senators from both parties. we begin with angus king from maine. the 68-year-old former governor also was a wind power company executive. he won the seat held by retiring republican senator olympia snowe, with 53% of the vote.
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the independent king kept voters guessing which party he'd caucus with. he made up his mind last week, the day before i spoke with him. welcome and congratulations. you've ran as an independent. now you've announced you'll caucus with the democrats. why not remain independent and why the democrats? >> the first preference was and i always said during the campaign i wanted to remain as independent as i could be as long as i could be. it was always subject to being effective on behalf of maine. i'm not doing this as a stunt. as i looked at the senate rules and the senate precedents and talked to people down here who have a lot of experience, trying to go it alone without affiliation with either caucus i think really would be almost impossible particularly in the sense that it would largely exclude me from the committee process. that's where the day-to-day work gets done. now the same answer really applies in terms of why the demate coras.
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number one, they're in the majority. they have more seats on the committee. they have more control over the schedule. they have more involvement in how the senate day to day is going to work. but secondly i did some inquiries. the first people i called were bernie sanders and joe lieberman who had served as independents aligned with the democratic caucus to ask them how does it work? were you allowed to be independent or was there a kind of heavy party discipline? they both said, no, they could be independent. they were not pressured. and that sounded good. then i had a lengthy conversation earlier this week with harry reid. essentially i asked him the same question. can i maintain my independence and yet be in the democratic caucus and have the benefit of committee assignments and working in that way? he said yes. so that's how i made that decision >> brown: you know, you said in making that decision that you wanted to serve in some fashion as a bridge between parties.
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i note that you're taking now the seat of olympia snow. we talked to her when she announced they would not run for re-election. part of it was she was citing what she called the dysfunction in congress and is ten at. the sense that nobody was open to compromise. how do you plan to do that? how do you see yourself as bridging that problem? >> as a matter of fact, the reason that she stated for her leaving was exactly the reason i decided to run. i had no intention of getting back into politics. i was teaching at boy down and happily retired from politics. when she said that i said to myself maybe we have to try something different. i'm in a position to do that being an independent. i made very clear in my statement yesterday in announcing that i was going to caucus with the democrats that taking one side did not mean automatic opposition to the other. i believe that. in fact when i was an independent governor i worked with both sides.
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i sometimes fought with both sides. we managed to find solution to our state's problems. i think that's the role that i want to play now. i want to keep the lines of communications open with the republicans because the fact is given a republican house, a democratic senate with substantial power in the republican minority and a democratic president, if we don't work together, it's impossible. as bill clinton would say it's just arithmetic >> brown: many talk that way and then come in and then look where we are. a very divided country. very divided government. can you give me a specific example of something that interests you, a subject for us now whether fiscal, environmental, energy immigration all kinds of things on the table you're walking into. how would you bridge the difference? >> well, i think one place we have to start is filibuster reform. i mean i think part of the problem is that this institution of the united states senate is largely been dead locked for the past few years and i don't
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believe i'm a representative of a small state, i don't think we should eliminate the filibuster but i think there are reforms that can be made and it may well be that my first vote on january 3 or 4 will be in that area. i know there's some very substantial discussions going on. most people believe, i think -- we'll find out when the votes are cast -- that something really has to be done because the country has some problems. you listed a bunch of them, energy, health care costs, the debt, the deficit. if we can't make the institution itself work, we can never get to those problems. the next after some structural reform that i hope will allow the institution to work better, the debt and the deficit has to be in next great problem. that cries out for compromise. that's a mathmatica colonel problem that can be solved by people trying to meet in the middle. hopefully -- and i see that there's... i think there has to be a balanced approach. there has to be some additional revenues. there have to be serious cuts.
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i can say that outloud and hopefully there are others -- and i know there are others -- who believe that as well. we can find some place in the middle and i believe that we can do something about the debt and the deficit in the first few months of the next year, that in itself will significantly stimulate the economy. >> brown: let me just ask you briefly, finally, a lot of talk this past week of the mandate of the president after this election. what should his stance be, should it be more aggressive stand your ground now or more accommodating, compromising, reaching out. what is your advice to him if asked? >> i think the answer is both. i think he needs to stake out a firm position but i think he also needs to be prepared to be the deal-maker in chief. i've talked to a number of people. i think he has an important in all of this to help the congress move toward a solution.
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he's the guy who can put that on the table. so i would say he needs to be strong as he was last night in his press conference. but he also needs to realize that, you know, the numbers have to add up at the end of the day and the congress is going to ultimately make this decision. so some accommodation can be had. but i think he's starting out in the proper place which is staking out a strong position >> brown: ang us king, senator-elect of maine. thanks so much >> thank you, jeff. great to be with you. >> woodruff: we'll take with other new faces in congress in the coming weeks, including virginia's new senator, democrat tim kaine. again, the major developments of the day. israel aimed a new wave of air strikes at gaza, and hamas fighters sent a volley of rockets into southern israel, six days into their latest war. wall street surged on hopes for a deficit deal between president obama and congress. the dow industrials gained more than 200 points. and president obama drew cheering crowds in myanmar,
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where he voiced support for ongoing reforms, after decades of military rule. online, we look at climate change, subatomic particles, and twinkies. hari sreenivasan has more on our science news roundup. >> sreenivasan: read the stark report from the world bank on climate change and what the earth will look like at the end of the century. plus, has the newest particle in subatomic physics become boring? and the science behind the twinkie. our social security guru handles topics such as scams to watch out for and benefits for domestic partners. that's on our business desk. and for the latest profile in our social entrepreneurs series, meet the woman behind new york's hot bread kitchen. all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. >> woodruff: and that's the newshour for tonight. on tuesday, we'll have the latest on the fighting in the middle east. i'm judy woodruff. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. we'll see you online, and again here tomorrow evening. thank you, and good night.
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